Cuts at Mythic

Massively is reporting (from Joystiq) rumours that 60-120 jobs are being axed at Mythic HQ, including senior designers.

Bearing this up, MJ has posted a note on the Herald:

Obviously, demand for a large QA and play-testing staff also falls after launch.  As a result, we saw a staff reduction which is in line with the company-wide initiative. In no way does this conflict with our commitment to customer service.  Staffing numbers will always map to consumer needs – it goes up when we launch new products and expand popular ones, and comes back down as players become familiar with the game.

Sympathies to anyone who is personally affected, we hope you all land on your feet.

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You load 300k subs, and whaddaya get?

… another year older and deeper in debt.

Electronic Arts (EA) announced yesterday that Warhammer Online had 300k active subscriptions at the end of last year. This was actually one of the high points of their earnings call.

They lost $641mil over the third quarter of last year, a huge increase over the year before. They’re closing down 12 offices (making approx 1100 people redundant, and are cutting down the number of games in their portfolio to 50 for 2010.

All of this is severe, and it gets worse. Three of the big name games scheduled for this year have also been delayed (hope no one was holding their breath waiting for Sims 3 or Dragon Age). If you’re bleeding cash, the only reason for delaying extra income flow from a new game is because you have no choice. Either those games are behind schedule, they can’t make their schedule because of the loss of resources/ job cuts, or there are other reasons to think that there is more profit from delaying than from putting them out on time.

So what does 300k subs mean for Warhammer

300k subscriptions is a healthy number for an MMO. If it seems disappointing now, it is because the hype machine was in overdrive last year. And also, no one really knew what to expect — we simply hadn’t much experience of seeing how a AAA MMO would go up against Warcraft. LOTRO and Conan were arguably different types of proposition.

I think the future for WAR is rosy. Mythic have dealt promptly with any issues arising, they were quick to offer server merges when it was needed and have been active with entertaining events and new content for existing subscribers.

The proof is in the pudding though, and we won’t know until May how many people who initially took out a 6 month subscription will be staying with it.

By far the biggest issues the game has in my opinion are technical ones. They need those large battles to be stable and accessible since they’re the big selling point. They could really use a larger server size too.

Balance and content are good to go. Not perfect, but not a red flag either. They can be tweaked as long as players are having fun in the meantime.  But for all that, it deserves to be successful, and the core of the game is sound. I said this back in my beta review and it’s still true.

Three hundred thousand is a solid number of players. It’s a solid income stream for Mythic/ EA. It’s definitely not a failure in any terms other than the overhyped ones. Eurogamer.net reckon that it’s enough to guarantee the game’s future, and they have a chat scheduled tomorrow with Paul Barnett in which the question is bound to come up.

And right now, Electronic Arts could probably use all the guaranteed income streams and  non-failures that it can get.

So what have the other bloggers been saying?

Wizards and Wenches has a null reaction.

Tobold discusses the attrition rate and why the early estimates were so high

Syp@Waaagh analyses what the numbers mean to him

Reroller also ponders whether players should be worried

Syncaine@Hardcore Casual is initially disappointed in the numbers, but argues that they are solid.

I haven’t written about it in my blog (because one post a day on financials is enough 🙂 ) but I’ll link to it anyway!

Initial thoughts and stuff

So, we’ve had the game for a few days now, all our headstart people have been in since Monday, and we await the influx on Thursday. Here’s a few points on how it’s been:

GOA’s done a good job

There was a slight delay to the Collectors Edition Headstart, a couple of hours. Standard Edition headstart went well with people getting in smoothly. Queues haven’t been horrible (we’ve had none, but we’re Order and Core-RP), just haven’t seen too many complaints. And everyone who got an email back from a GM was very happy with it. Just Thursday to go and signs are positive! Also, there is nothing about it in the gaming news – which means it’s going well. (Obviously there are stories that the game is launching, but strictly they’re focusing on Thursday).

EA problems with keys an exercise in why to order elsewhere

I really feel for people who went with EAStore, because hey, it’s EA and they promised all sorts of goodies and for a while they were the only Standard Edition seller (soon joined by Direct 2 Drive) who said they were offering the headstart. Sending out the wrong keys was a cock-up, I hope everyone is in now and it wasn’t too painful. Having problems with manufacturing so that not all CEs have been sent out on time isn’t great either. On another note, looks like Play.com has some CE copies left. (This may be out-of-date when you get to read it).

Standard Edition Headstart

Because of Games Day, I started playing a few hours before the Standard Edition people came online. I was out of the starting area and at the first Dwarf PQ. Had to ask in-guild for some help finishing it and someone headed back to help (yay, guild). By the time we got to Stage 3 it became apparent the Standard Edition had come online as suddenly a whole gang of people entered the PQ, meaning we stormed it. Was a great sight and feeling. So enjoy that today America!

Guild

We have a separate post coming with names, screenshots, guild details – just making sure of Hawley’s first. But quickly, would just like to pause for a moment to say the guild is great. We’ve done a few things together and lots of things in smaller groups. Chat levels high, as is excitement. The guild is full of people we haven’t yet met, and Teamspeak is full of unfamiliar voices, but it’s going to be a hell of a lot of fun learning about and meeting them all.

The Game

The game remains insanely fun, with a few collywobbles as I realised this character isn’t getting deleted so I better take it a bit more seriously. Scenarios have been plentiful (more so at night), open groups have invited me along, rather than waiting for me to invite myself, have done a bit of exploring in the mornings – but I intend to do more. I’m not sure why, but it feels better than either beta. I have a suspicion it’s the number of players and general level of excitement. Good stuff!

Keep yourself busy

EA tests new marketing by offering £20k of free petrol at a petrol station in North London to celebrate the launch of Mercenaries 2. Chaos ensues at the petrol station involved – locals whine. Gets reported in The Telegraph’s motoring section. It got a lot of news space, the game was mentioned in each. Free petrol was limited to £40 per car (the game costs £27-£40 depending on platform).  Gets called a smart campaign. We agree – but have spent many happy minutes contemplating a similar-style campaign for WAR where Marble Arch is turned into the Gates of Ekrund and tourists fight Londoners!

Hurrah, Spore finally got released. Cue more Spore articles! While we’re waiting for the sporn to take over the universe and me to figure out the tribal phase, here’s an interview with Will Wright about the launch. And here’s a cute article about the world’s tiniest billboard – advertising Spore, of course.

How to break into the Industry! Any Industry!

US Politics has been in the news a lot over here this week.  Seems there’s some election going on in the US. Not sure who to vote for? Luckily, the Edge has examined the candidates’ gaming credentials. Meanwhile, Daniel O’Brien at cracked.com cuts to the chase because there’s only one issue he thinks Sarah Palin must address.

Tobold is one of our favourite bloggers, and he notes for the record that Mythic (US) have given him a free WAR account. Yay for freebies, and congrats Tobold! I find this amusing because like us, he’s planning to play in the EU anyway because of timezone issues. Naturally, other bloggers have reacted in a variety of ways. Wall of Text wants to know how he can get freebies, and Syp ponders the ethics of freebies/pay for bloggers.

Thanks to PixiePalace for finding this picture of a badass female warrior in fantasy-style heavy armour. She’s right in that it’s quite difficult to find images like that which aren’t showing a lot of skin.

Would friendly fire work in an MMO? I know the people I play with, so am glad there is no friendly fire!

Killed in a Smiling Accident mourns the loss of some secret classes, last seen in the super secret alpha stage of the game; the Scion of Slaanesh, the Dwarf Beer Master, the Orc Negotiator, the High Elf Conscientious Objector, the Dark Elf Emolator, and the Human Bloggerer (thankfully not quite extinct yet.) Kept us smiling, for sure.

Keen and Syp weigh in with thoughts about the chicken mechanic staying on the open-RvR servers. It’s an interesting debate, and apparently Mythic are now surveying feelings on it, via the preview weekend+ players.

Links-a-matosis

Want to start writing about Warhammer? If so, Regis from Wizards and Wenches is running a blog competition you should check out.

Hammer of WAR is a new community site, set up by husband and wife team and looking to establish itself through some interesting columns and a set of forums. JoBildo has said he’s going to be a columnist so it’s definitely worth watching.

Also new to the community is Forums of WAR, a dedicated series of server forums. Obviously it’s a bit quiet so far!

And check out WAAAGH! Hammer also, a very professional looking blog.

Stuck for a name? Here’s a pretty cool resource for Warhammer Fantasy RP names.

Rock, Paper, Shotgun return to their series of conversations with Paul Barnett. This time it covers his top 5 MMOs – which aren’t  MMOs and they discuss more than 5 games, but he likes Elite so it’s cool with us.  (Spinks: Did I ever mention that I got to Elite on the Atari ST version?) Also at the same site, you can watch 3 trailers for Deathspank. Go – watch them.

Scientific American discusses why people like stories in The Secrets of Storytelling. It’s not something you necessarily expect a scientific magazine to come out with, but it’s fascinating stuff.

The latest guild highlight looks at the taverns provided and includes lots of useful info I never tried to explore in the beta – such as where you can fly to from the tavern and what you can buy at reduced price. The EU guild in the spotlight this time is Unleashed. The US featured guild is even more hardcore.

Over at The Consumerist, there’s a cautionary tale about trying to change your postal address on a Collector’s Edition pre-order. Apparently EA do not make this simple, or even possible. NB: this is a US story.

Obviously, there’s been a lot about PAX in the interwebs this past week, but the panel I enjoyed reading about most was How to get your Girlfriend into Gaming. Maybe you could do like Bernie Ping and hack her favourite game so it proposes to her (arbitrary: seriously, I love Bejeweled so I’m impressed!)

On Warhammer-related PAX news, stop by Jeff’s Ten Ton Hammer blog and read all the Q&As cos they’re really informative and definitely added to the whole thing.

Waaagh: the Podcast has a home over at GAX and is available on iTunes. Episode 2 includes a long chat with Brent from Virgin Worlds about his recent Warhammer Online comments. Really enjoyed it. And talking of podcasts No Prisoners, No Mercy has a special Warhammer Online broadcast out and Shut Up, We’re Talking does a pretty nice overview of the game also.

In other news, if you’ve been wondering where all the local cats and mice have been recently, it’s probably because they’ve also been gearing up for the relase of Warhammer Online, with some pretty tasty epics…

…on the links

The Warhammer Herald reports that Warhammer Online won best of E3:PC at G4TV (ie. G4TV liked it better than Spore and Left 4 Dead!) and also highlights an interview with Josh there.

Carrie Gouskos mentions her interview on ChaosCast no.4 and the sudden realisation that Warhammer Online is no ‘little thing’.

Times they are a-changin’ at Warhammer Alliance, and Garthilk posts about the state of WHA and plans for the future. Plans involving a reorganisation, a database and of course … a wiki!

Vale writes a new Warrior Priest blog, huzzah!

John Darwin is on trial at the moment for faking his death in a canoeing accident while his wife cashed in on the life insurance. It’s a bizarre case. Anyway, in her defense case earlier this week, she mentioned MMOs (saying her husband had met someone he’d gone on to have an affair with over one).

Relmstein classifies the different types of villains we meet in MMORPGs.

Keen posts his first article on E3 and Warhammer Online over at the Vault. His second piece is also up over there, or you can read it on his own blog.

mmorpg.com sent a journalist to check out WAR at E3 and she gives her reactions here. Will have to remember to go thank her if our dwarf girls get cool jewelry.

As I often see during demos, the guys showed me the various male characters. I wanted to see the females. So when I got the chance for hands-on, I scrolled through the various races and careers and decided to customize a Dwarven female. Sorry, no beards for female Dwarves. Okay… I could live with that but where was MY jewelry? Wait just one doggone minute. How come the male Dwarves got jewelry and the females didn’t?

“We can look at that!” was the chorus of replies.

Bruce Everiss writes about virtual worlds, including MMORPGs and investment into these worlds. Not sure what his point is, except that they cost a lot and the earning potential is huge, but they often fail. I could have said that and I’m no ‘veteran games industry marketer’.

For those who wanted, there’s another white lion vid here, it includes some footage of a fully grown white lion. Oh, you wanted more info about White Lions in the game? Check out this brief preview at gamespot.

Games Workshop have posted a preview to Games Day UK 2008 on their site.

Random things you should watch this week: Dr Horrible’s Sing-Along Blog, and the Watchmen trailer.

Love RPGs and hate saving money – this could be the product for you!! Of course, it’s only available in Japan, but we hereby launch the quest to get it released over in the UK and US.

Name change!

So, there’s an interview over at MMORPG.com with Mark Jacobs where he makes four announcements. As a teaser, they’ve released the first announcement – EA Mythic is going back to its old name – Mythic Entertainment.

“We are going back to Mythic Entertainment,” said Mark Jacobs, the VP and General Manager of EA Mythic. “I’ve always been a believer of separate branding,” he continued, going on to cite a number of successful companies like Disney and GE that operate subsidiary companies under separate and distinct brands.

“I think that this is a wonderful example of how things at EA are changing,” he continued, “both John (Riccitiello, CEO of EA) and Frank (Gibeau, EA) have spoken multiple times about city states, more freedom, that sort of thing and I think this is an obvious example.” 

Before we all get too excited about the remaining announcements, the comments thread over at the original article includes the following quotation from the Managing Editor of the site:

I don’t want to ruin the surprise, but I also don’t want you to get your hopes up. No, it has nothing to do with beta, or any other date for that matter.  

And then from Mark Jacobs himself (p5 of the thread), over at the Warhammer Alliance forums:

1) We are not, repeat not, going to announce a delay tomorrow. The game is not going to be shut down, Paul has not gone screaming into the woods, Jeff hasn’t found another job and a well-known politician is not talking about cutting off part of my anatomy. In the words of one of my favorite authors, who I wish was still among us, “DON’T PANIC”.

2) The announcements are not mundane.

3) The announcements will be worth reading, they are wide-ranging and frankly, some of the stuff I talk about is central to the game.

4) The name change is a wonderful thing but it wasn’t done to distance ourselves from the EA name but rather to re-establish the separate brand identity for ourselves and for the other studios within EA. This is a long-standing wish of mine and I am thrilled that it has happened. Having separate brands for EA is a win-win scenario and we are not the first EA studio to have a name change/modification.